“electrification Of Industries: Opportunities And Challenges Ahead” – The German energy transition (Energiewende) has a new buzzword: sector coupling. The idea of ​​running energy-intensive heating, transport and industry with renewable energy instead of fossil fuels will require the deployment of many new technologies and rules. The jury is still out on which technologies will be best suited to “electrify” the entire economy, as stakeholders present different solutions. This factsheet explains the meaning of sector coupling and the implementation options under discussion in Germany.

Sector coupling (German: Sektorkopplung) refers to the idea of ​​interconnecting (integrating) the energy-consuming sectors – buildings (heating and cooling), transport and industry – with the power generation sector .

“electrification Of Industries: Opportunities And Challenges Ahead”

So far, Germany’s energy transition – moving away from nuclear and fossil fuels and moving to a system powered almost entirely by renewable energy sources – has largely occurred in the energy sector. electricity, where the share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption amounts to 36%. . Other areas, in particular buildings and transport, are still predominantly dependent on fossil fuels, and of Germany’s primary energy consumption, renewables account for only 13% (preliminary figures 2017).

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The use of electricity in all energy-related processes, whether transportation, heating or manufacturing, would revolutionize the world of energy as we know it.

Today, electricity is used to operate machines and technical devices, such as computers. Industries and households use electricity for light, but to keep their homes warm Germans rely primarily on natural gas and mineral oil heating systems and virtually all forms of road transport – cars and trucks – depend on gasoline or diesel.

Making electricity the default form of energy in these sectors would be a step towards what is sometimes referred to as an “all-electric world” – and it could solve many of the problems facing electricity generation from renewable sources. is currently facing.

Since the main sources of renewable energy in Germany are wind and solar, these are not always available when the energy is needed, so electricity storage is a major issue. Interconnecting the sectors could help here: part of the power could be used to heat large amounts of water (power-to-heat) for heating homes, thus indirectly electrifying the heating sector. During peak hours of electricity production, the electricity could be used to produce hydrogen or syngas (power-to-gas). The gas that stores the energy can either be used to power vehicles or be transformed back into electricity or heat in times of low sun and wind.

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The German government has opted for the use of renewable electricity in most processes. He sees the use of renewable energy (directly or indirectly, i.e. power-to-x) as the best way to decarbonize the country’s economy, i.e. make it largely carbon neutral by 2050. Other options, such as the use of biofuels – e.g. biodiesel, wood burning (pellets) – alone to make transportation and heating powered by renewable energy, are not considered viable due to the limited potential to grow large amounts of biomass for fuel production.

The use of electricity in all energy-intensive sectors raises difficult questions, such as how much energy is needed if the whole economy makes electricity the default form of energy, and how will the energy be stored and distributed across the country in the most cost effective and efficient way? practical way.

Replace electricity produced from coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants with electricity from wind, solar, biomass, hydro or geothermal installations.

Status quo (2016/2017) – German households are the biggest consumers of heat (44%), followed by industry (38%) and trade, commerce and services (18%). Households are mainly heated (excluding hot water) with fossil fuels (47% natural gas, 24% mineral oil, 17% renewable energies, 2% electricity, 9% district heating). Energy for heating is also used in industry and in trade, crafts and services. The overall share of renewable energy in the heating sector was 12.9% in 2017. Energy use for cooling processes is negligible – 2% of Germany’s final energy consumption. German households do not normally use air conditioning systems.

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Targets – The government’s target for the building sector is to reduce heat consumption by 20% by 2020 and greenhouse gas emissions by 67% by 2030.

Technologies to increase the share of renewables in the heating sector include the use of biomass (currently two-thirds of renewable energy used for household heating comes from biomass, e.g. wood), solar thermal and geothermal installations, heat pumps, power-to – heating and electricity-to-gas conversion installations.

Heat pumps are considered a key technology for integrating the heating sector into the electricity-based energy system. These devices use electricity to circulate hot/cold liquids, using heat from outside air, geothermal heat or ground water. The installation of heat pumps must go hand in hand with the insulation of buildings to ensure that less heat is lost and the whole sector becomes more efficient.

Another power-to-heat solution uses excess electricity (for example during periods of very high production of renewable energies from wind or solar origin) to heat large quantities of water, which are then distributed in networks. district heating systems (which already exist in several German cities).

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Synthetic gases, generated in power-to-gas installations that use electricity to produce hydrogen (electrolysis) and add CO2 to create methane (= natural gas), can also be used in the heating sector instead of fossil natural gas.

Status quo (2017) – In total, 94.8% of the energy used in the transport sector in Germany comes from fossil fuels. Renewable sources only contribute 5.2% (mainly biodiesel).

Objectives – By 2020, the government wants to reduce final energy consumption in the transport sector by 10% (2050: -40%) and greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by 40%.

Key technologies to decarbonize the transport sector include the use of compressed natural gas (CNG), biofuels, batteries, hydrogen or synthetic fuels.

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Apart from the use of natural gas and biofuels, all these technologies would be part of the interconnection with the electricity system, either directly (batteries, charged with electricity) or indirectly, in power-to-gas (hydrogen or natural gas from synthesis) or power-to-liquid (liquid synthetic fuels produced using a procedure similar to that of power-to-gas). Aviation, shipping and road freight transport will be candidates for power-to-x technologies, rather than battery motors.

In the field of individual mobility, public transport, car sharing, cycling, walking and eventually automated driving are expected to play an increasing role in the development of a new concept of electric mobility in Germany.

Status quo (2016) – Industrial processes are responsible for 28% of final energy consumption in Germany. Most of industry’s energy needs are met by gas (35%), coal (14%) and electricity (32%). Only 4% comes from renewable sources. Three-quarters of the energy needed in the industrial sector is used to process heat, and the rest to run motors and machinery. 38% of all emissions come from processes not related to energy consumption, but for example from the manufacture of cement, chalk or steel, or from other chemical processes.

Targets – The government wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector by 50% by 2030.

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Technologies – The industrial sector needs to be made more energy efficient, and the technologies to be used to achieve this goal depend on specific manufacturing processes and recycling strategies.

Depending on whether an industrial process needs gas, mineral oil, chemicals, heat or electricity, all power-to-x technologies applicable in other sectors can be used to electrify the industrial sector as well.

However, the government admits that not all industrial and agricultural processes can be fully decarbonized. Therefore, if Germany achieves its planned 80-95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the remaining 5-20% of its CO2 emissions (10% = 125 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent ) will likely come from these sectors. To achieve carbon neutrality despite everything, greenhouse gas emissions from industry could be captured and used, or stored (CCU/CCS), or offset by CO2 sinks.

A major question researchers are trying to answer by modeling Germany’s future economic, social and energy systems is how much electricity will be needed if all energy-consuming sectors are electrified. The results of these scenarios range from 462 to 3,000 terawatt hours (Twh) per year.

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In 2016, the country’s annual final energy consumption was 2,542 TWh, and electricity consumption was 516 TWh. In 2015, heating/air conditioning and hot water services alone consumed 748 TWh.

Meanwhile, US energy company ExxonMobil estimates that Germany’s energy consumption will drop by around 30% and that two-thirds of cars will still run on mineral fuels in 2040, with electric cars accounting for just one-fifth. of the vehicle fleet that year.

In 2010, the government set itself the target of reducing primary energy consumption by 50% and electricity consumption by 25% by 2050, compared to 2008 levels. only electric cars, but also the heating and industrial sectors – again depending on efficiency gains – these energy consumption targets may need to be revised, Fraunhofer ISI said in a 2018 study.

The amount of electricity needed will also depend on the technologies chosen to electrify each sector. The amount of energy lost when converting from one form of energy to another (e.g. in electricity to gas conversion processes or when charging a battery) (called energy conversion efficiency energy) is unique to each process. Using energy to create hydrogen (electrolysis) and

Vision & Mission


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